When it comes to photos for your blog or website you really have just 2 options – DIY or get them from somewhere else. Unless you’re a photographer, you’re probably not swimming in photo equipment or a ton of great pictures. Doing it yourself is always going to guarantee that you have original content, but sometimes using stock photography isn’t such a bad idea either. In fact, there are quite a few reasonably priced options out there if you’ve got the budget for it – or you can try some of my favorite places to pick up free stock images.
Great Places to Pick Up Free Stock Images
There are lots of options online for both paid and unpaid stock photos. I use stock images on my own site, but most frequently for client websites and projects. There are three things that are a must for me when I’m looking for a great FREE stock image site:
- images truly are free
- the site is searchable
- whether or not attribution is required (for my clients I always recommend going for sites that don’t require attribution – it’s one less thing for them to hassle with)
Pexels (this is my go to site) the number of categories is large and each category has lots of images to choose from. I’ve used images from here for stock images on my blog, and for client projects (both print and online). The site is super streamlined which saves time, and its the first place I go to find stock images to use as placeholders for small business websites (over 50% of the time we end up keeping these images instead of replacing them, that’s how good they are).
Pic jumbo provides plenty of great options in several categories. I personally feel like the site provides more awesome food photos than others that I may be interested in, but they have a wide variety of categories as well. It seems like the download process is a little bit more cumbersome than Pexels, but the quality of the images is just as good.
Pixabay is fairly new on my radar for stock images, but I’ve still found plenty of great stuff there. They seem to have more “classic” and less “trendy” shots but that works great for many of my clients who are looking for a traditional corporate look. It seems like they have a fairly wide array of food images, and a lot of images that are shot on white backgrounds – which is great for bloggers and website builders trying to get that “clean and fresh/on a white background look”.
Lets Talk Legal- Commercial Use, Royalty Free, Attribution Required
When I took Communications Law back in college, I never thought I’d use it. Well, at least not as much as I do today. Even though there’s a lot out on the internet that you can download and use, doesn’t always mean that you should. I’d be careful what you use – and the first step in doing so is to read the fine print. When I’m looking at stock photography for myself or advising my clients here are a few phrases that I want to make sure are included in that fine print:
Free for Commercial Use. There are 2 options for creative goods or anything really that you purchase or download for free. Personal Use and Commercial Use. Always make sure you’ve purchased a commercial use license if it’s needed or make sure when you download free goods that it says it’s Free for Commercial Use. That means the creator is fine with you using the item in your business where you’re planning to make a profit. I’ve never come across a Free for Commercial Use phrase that includes the idea that you’ll package and resell the goods to customers or pass them on to clients – something that I think people do without thinking, but it’s not included and can cause a lot of problems.
No attribution required. I am all about citing works and giving attribution where it’s due. That said, a client’s website doesn’t look very professional if every stock photo they use has a photo caption underneath attributing someone else. But that’s not the only reason I recommend using images, fonts, and other creative elements that don’t require attribution. Its a technicality that many of my clients just don’t have time to pay attention to, so this actually helps eliminate the leg work and keeps them in the clear when it comes to legality.
Royalty Free. Most of my clients are small and their budgets are as well. I never select images that involve royalties. It may seem like an antiquated idea, but royalty images and text are still out there (think of publishing books and such), although they might be harder to find in today’s world.
Things to Keep in Mind When You’re Picking Out Stock Photography
There are good images and there are great images and the difference between those two doesn’t have to fall in the skill behind the camera. I’m assuming here that you’re already picking from stock images that look great – so the following tips have to do with how to pick the right stock images for your project:
- photos with life in them are almost always better than those without. If you can’t have a face, take a hand or arm. If you can’t have a person (say you’re a foodie blogger or something of that sort) then choose images that show there was some type life there (think a few crumbs, a bite taken out or still on the fork, a piece of silverware tilted slightly, etc.)
- stick to colors that match with your project. I’m not saying that you can only use the colors that are outline in your branding guide, but at the very least, consider those colors when you’re selecting images. Most colors complement each other but it’s still something to keep in mind while you’re putting together your project and selecting images.
- pick images that display what you’re trying to convey in your text. This should be straightforward, but I’ve seen it botched a few times. Picking an extremely feminine work space (think white desk with, gold foil confetti, and glass vase of big pink peonies – super trendy right now, right?) works great if you’re a feminine blogger. But pairing that with a super intense post on coding the backend of a website, doesn’t really pair up as well as you might want it too ( most coders, not all – don’t usually have a work space that matches the one mentioned above).
- It doesn’t always have to be a photo – info graphics, tables, and really great typography can easily work as images and SEO loves them. Just make sure if you’re using infographics and such, that you’re using them well.
- look for photos that allow for some breathing space or an area that you could slip in a title of a post if needed.
- selecting images for website pages – try choosing images that were shot with the same model, or at least by the same photographer. It’s not a must, but it will help add continuity to your design, which is always a plus when you’re dealing with branding.
- be yourself, or your client – there is absolutely no reason to pick a certain type of stock image, just because it’s the hot new thing. Pay attention to what your client or their business gravitates towards and then choose images accordingly. It may not be the hottest trend, but you never know, you may be a trendsetter for the next big thing.
- choose the largest image size if possible (or at least consider how it might be used) – this way you can use them for print purposes and for web. This is especially important if you’re working for a client. They may want to use the images later for advertisements or printed marketing materials and it’s always better to have the highest resolution and largest size so you can do what you need to.
What tips do you have for selecting stock images? I’d love to hear your ideas and any places you’d recommend for picking up great stock photography.
Want more great tips and tricks on photography for your blog? You’ve come to the right place. I’m currently working on a Photography for Bloggers class that will be releasing soon. You can sign up to be the first to know when it’s released as well as get a “early bird discount” by signing up below.